ASPEN HILL – The doors of the Aspen Hill Library will close to the public at 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 8 and not re-open until spring.
Montgomery County Public Libraries slated the branch, which has occupied its site on Aspen Hill Road since 1967, for a “refresh” project to update its facilities.
Branch staff will continue to work at the library for about three weeks after its closure, helping to package books and other materials before they are temporarily reassigned to other locations.
MCPL officials expect the library to be reopened to the public in April or May next year.
“The Aspen Hill refresh will include new children’s room furniture and layout change,” said MCPL Director B. Parker Hamilton. “Space will be added on the main level for children’s programming and for parents and caregivers to work on early literacy skills with their children. This is an expanded use of space by making it multi-purpose for programming and early literacy learning.”
According to Hamilton, the adult area “will include spaces for families to gather and use resources together with larger banks of tables.”
Meanwhile, staff is due to add new materials to the collection. There will also be more collaboration rooms for small groups to reserve and better Wi-Fi connectivity.
“While a five to six month closure might be a challenge for some, it is far less than closure for renovation, which would be for two years or more,” said Hamilton.
MCPL officials are advising regular patrons of the library to visit the Rockville, Wheaton interim, Olney and Twinbrook branches during the refresh.
Some of the library’s advocates, while grateful for the improvements to the building’s facilities, also said the refresh is inadequate, particularly in comparison to renovation projects at other county branches.
“Here they’re going to be spending $800,000; on the one in Wheaton, they’re going to be spending $65 million on a completely new library,” said Elliot Chabot, chair of the Aspen Hill Library Advisory Committee. “In the time this library’s been standing, Wheaton’s will have been completely rebuilt twice, and yet we still have essentially what we had in 1967.”
Chabot noted when the library was built, the projected population of Aspen Hill in the year 2000 was around 30,000 residents, but when that year arrived, the population turned out to be more than 60,000.
Additionally, he said the library was originally intended to be one of three, but no one ever built two proposed small, storefront libraries.
“They’re going to do things they should have done decades ago,” said Chris Swan, president of the Aspen Hill chapter of Friends of the Library. “We’re going to get new carpeting, new flooring, new bathrooms, because they’re not ADA-compliant. They’re going to rearrange the organization of the library system, and that’s all they’re going to do. They’re not going to give us more room, more space, more needs.”
Swan also shared Chabot’s concerns that the library’s facilities were inadequate to serve the neighborhood’s population.
“We desperately need more space, newer facilities,” Swan said. “The building itself has got major problems. It’s built on an underground spring, so there’s water constantly coming. There have been system problems with the heating, cooling, roof and retaining walls, and yet they’re not going to do that because they don’t have the money, because the library system and the County Executive changed their minds”
Swan said while residents are “looking forward” to the $800,000 refresh but added it won’t “give this community the library that it really needs.”
Swan said many Aspen Hill residents rely on the library for internet access and language resources.
She said that, if provided adequate funding, she would like to see MCPL enact her group’s proposal to add a multifunctional wing to the back of the library which would remain open to serve the community while the front of the library is expanded and renovated.
“This economic community is not rich,” Swan said. “It’s a community that desperately needs this library and uses this library. In September, 51,000 people came into this library, yet it’s a little, tiny building.”